In honour of ‘Feb Fast’, this top five Thursday post comes from our guest blogger, PhD student and artist @themarquise , who would like to share her thoughts on alcohol and PhD life – how do they really mix?
1) Having a wine or two at the end of a hard day of research work can be a nice way to unwind.
You’ve been slogging it out on that thesis, paper, presentation, or artwork and you feel you can do no more. However, your mind is still racing as you try to switch off and concentrate on other areas of your life such as cooking dinner, putting the kids to bed, or catching up with Grey’s Anatomy.
A drink or two of alcohol can help you to relax, and if indulged in only a few times a week, can provide some health benefits. Some people may even use alcohol (or food) as a ‘reward’ for working so hard.
Using alcohol to relax or as a reward can easily become habit forming. Most of us realize the current recommendations are that women should not be having any more than two standard drinks a day and for men it’s four.
However, not all of us are equally aware that we should be having two to three alcohol free days, commonly known as ‘AFD’s, per week. This provides our bodies with a rest from processing alcohol and helps to prevent us from becoming alcohol dependent. Having three AFDs per week will mean you have at least three nights where you can get some extra work done and give your presentation the next day without a hangover. Furthermore, the combined effect of sitting on one’s bottom most of the day studying, and drinking alcohol is a sure way to put on a lot of weight: think of all those wasted kilojoules!
3) Some people find a couple of drinks can free up their thinking and lead their writing or practice into unexpected areas.
Alcohol can have powerful affects on our thoughts and perception. Depending on how much you have consumed, this can be moderate or extreme. On the moderate end of the scale, a wine whilst writing might relax you enough to see an idea you’ve been struggling with a little differently. On the extreme end of the scale, a little too much booze and you’re deleting parts of your thesis and moving files around that you will never see again.
At the moderate end, a couple of wines can lead to an inspirational frenzy of painting. At the extreme end, you find yourself staring at a dog’s breakfast of a canvas the next morning. Moderate amounts of alcohol can make us feel confident and happy, a useful thing at conference dinners. However, a mere glass or two more and we can be plunged into depression, anxiety or anger, none of which go down very well anywhere.
4) Small habits can become big problems that affect many areas of your life
In contemporary Australian society it is often easy to forget that alcohol is a highly addictive drug. Smoking has been ‘outed’ for the killer that it is, but alcohol is everywhere. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE a drink. That’s why I’m writing this. I’ve loved having a wine as my ‘gosh you’ve worked hard reward’ for a long time now. I’ve also enjoyed drinking at pubs, clubs, social occasions and work functions, christenings, funerals, dinner parties, in front of the TV and in the bath.
Problem is, it can get hard to say no. Even as you realise that your drinking is starting to affect your productivity, creativity and health, it can still be hard to say no when the whole world seems to be offering you a drink. People often have perceptions of alcoholics as people who can’t function effectively in society because of their drinking, but this isn’t always the case.
I expect that every one of you reading this knows an alcoholic, or if not, someone like me who is a ‘problem drinker’. We manage to get up everyday, meet with our supervisors, whack out some words, and in my case, make some art. But I’m sure that if we didn’t drink as much, we would feel a whole lot better about ourselves, be a lot more productive, and lot more creative.
If you’d like to put your relationship with alcohol to the test, it’s not too late to sign up for FebFast. Imagine how much more clear headed you’ll be after a month of not drinking alcohol! And you’ll be helping another researcher out as all proceeds go to funding research into alcohol related diseases and rehabilitation.